Ninety-one members of the New People's Army (NPA) surrendered to military and police in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Saturday.
Lt. Col. Lauro Oliveros, commander of the 1st Mechanized Battalion, said they reached out to the rebels through the group's tribal leader.
The rebels belonged to the Teduray tribe living along the boundary of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.
Out of the 91, 8 were regular members of the New People's Army, while the rest were new recruits and participated on different levels.
"Iba-ibang level ng participation. Ang iba sa kanila mga unit militia. Ibig sabihin, iba't ibang level 'yung kanilang membership. Considered as recruits na sila. Na-recruit na, kaya lang hindi pa sila talaga na-consider as regular na sumasama sa operations," Oliveros said.
"Kumbaga hindi pa nag-qualify as regular members. Ang iba taga-bigay ng impormasyon nila sa grupo. Ang iba siguro runners, utusan nila kung may ipapagawa."
One of those who surrendered was "Jun."
Jun is a squad leader of a platoon under an NPA guerilla front operating in the mountains of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat.
He said those who recruited him made promises, such as putting up schools to provide education for girls, which convinced him to sign up.
He was also promised that he would get shares of the land taken away from them.
"Sabi nila tulungan nila kami doon sa sabi nilang 'yutang kabilin' (lupang habilin). 'Kaya pumasok kayo sa NPA,' sabi nila. Kasi sabi nila kung hindi kayo mag-NPA walang solusyon ang lugar niyo. Akala namin matuloy ang mga sinabi nila na tulungan kami," said Jun, who fought for two years, in which they were targeting company guards.
He witnessed how NPA members and their opponents were killed.
Jun decided to return to the government side because he said he was tired of hiding from authorities.
"Sabi nila, ang mga kompanya daw ang nang-aagaw ng lupa. Wala akong nakuha na maganda, puro lang kasamaan. Kasamaan kasi pumapatay ka ng tao na walang kasalanan," he said.
The local government unit of Ampatuan will extend financial assistance to the former rebels.
"Pwede rin kung sino ang gustong mag tanim like rubber, pwede natin sila bigyan ng tanim o i-assist," Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki said.
Regular members of the NPA will undergo qualification processing to avail of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
The former recruits were allowed to go back home, while the 8 regular members were temporarily placed under military custody for deeper interrogation and debriefing.
Fifteen firearms and various ammunition were also surrendered to the authorities.
Since January, about 140 rebels and new recruits have surrendered to the 1st Mechanized Battalion.